By Jeremy McDonald
STAYTON, Ore.– The situation Stayton Girls Basketball are in is unique. The last two years they graduated just two seniors, KJ Nyquist and Emma Storey back in 2019 when the Eagles reached the 4A State First Round before falling to North Marion 41-38.
Fast Forward to Wednesday evening and as they start Head Coach Wendi Nyquist’s third year at the helm of the program, the Eagles return roughly seven girls who finished on the Varsity roster of that playoff team.
Several, like the Tyler twins of Karlee and Kaylee, the Nyquist Sisters of Haili and Tori, Miley Mitchell and Maddy Mitzel, were on the Stayton team that went 8-3 in the six-week season. Losing only to Philomath and Cascade in the process.
“If you look at this group, our core group of sophomores, they all stayed and now they’re seniors. They’re like sisters,” said Head Coach Wendi Nyquist. “They care for each other, they hold each other accountable, they compete hard in practice and they want to be the best that they can be. This is my third year and I’ve had the same kids and they’re great kids.”
“It’s awesome. It’s awesome to see everyone grow, see everyone grow together is just amazing and just being close with everybody the past couple of years have been awesome,” adds Mitchell. “Last year was kind of a growing season for this group. Not having all the fans and everyone there and just being able to have the gym this year will be awesome and just growing from last year to this year is going to be fun.”
The Eagles program has slowly come around through the years, turning from one of the hunters to one of the hunted. Having gone to the Elite Eight twice in 2018 and 2019, finishing sixth during the 2018 season.
Now that’s just stepping up to that challenge.
“I think teams know that we have a lot of kids coming back. We got some talent, there’s going to be a few games where it’ll be the other way around,” Nyquist said. “I know we can play well, but we have to play well when we’re expected to win and when the pressure is on against great teams. We got to be able to play when there’s pressure and we got to be able to step up to that challenge.”
And now it’s just a matter of that point across as they’ll open the season with back-to-back road trips to Seaside and Banks. Junction City, North Marion and Gladstone will be equally as tough.
All in preparation for an Oregon West Conference slate that will have it’s own challenges within Woodburn, the Cougars and the Warriors come game day.
“That’s what we tell the kids, that’s what practice is for. It’s to prepare,” Nyquist said. “So we’ll prepare them to the best of our ability and I’m hoping that we’re ready to take that next step. We’ll see, we got some tough games…we just got to be ready and prepared for each and every one of them and play them to the best of our ability. Give it all that we got.”
Stayton opens the season December 3 at Seaside before traveling to Banks on December 7. The Eagles first home game will be December 9 against North Marion.
Photos By Jeremy McDonald